EMIGSVILLE -- When the Dover and Dallastown girls' basketball teams met about a month ago, it wasn't exactly the Wildcats' finest moment.
That 43-40 loss to the Eagles back in mid-January, however, did help the Wildcats discover a fitting motto for the rest of the season: "Unfinished business."
Losses to York Catholic, West York and Red Lion after that setback prevented Coach Mary Manlove's team from securing a highly-coveted York-Adams League Division I title.
The league playoffs, however, gave Dallastown a chance to take care of -- wait for it -- "unfinished business." Now that business is nearly complete.
After a furious rally by the Eagles drew the Division II champs within two points, the Wildcats got a timely basket from Amari Johnson to stem the tide at Central York High School. Johnson's basket spurred an 8-0 run that helped to wrap up a 53-41 York-Adams League Tournament semifinal victory, handing Dover its first loss of the season.
The Wildcats (18-6) will get another chance to take care of "unfinished business" at York College at 7 p.m. Thursday in the league championship game. They will face West York (21-3), a team that dealt them a 40-39 setback on Jan 29. The Bulldogs advanced to the title contest after defeating York Catholic, 59-54, in the other semifinal at Central York.
Getting a measure of revenge was a perfect recipe to boost the Wildcats' confidence as the playoffs start heating up.
"Oh my God, that was such a relief," Dallastown senior Shae Grim said. "For us seniors, we haven't gone to the finals and we haven't won anything since 2000. We really set our eyes on this since the beginning of the season."
The victory looked to be well in hand after the Wildcats held a seemingly healthy 36-24 advantage after three quarters. That lead nearly evaporated after the Eagles started the fourth quarter on an 11-1 run that cut the deficit to 37-35 with 4:08 remaining.
"It seems like whenever you make those big runs in these kinds of games, you just get to the edge," Dover coach Troy Lokhaiser said. "But then you just can't get over the hump."
After Dover's Alayah Hall sank the second of two free throws to pull her team within two, the Wildcats got a big basket from Johnson, who beat the press and hit a layup while she was fouled. Johnson's free throw extended the lead back to five and the Eagles never got any closer from there.
"I don't know if we were out of gas there, but I can't ask anything more from them," Lokhaiser said. "They played their hearts out."
As the Wildcats began to make free throws that stretched the lead back to double figures, all that was left for Grim and her teammates to do was celebrate after the final buzzer sounded.
"We knew that we didn't play to our potential the first time we played them," Grim said. "So our team was hyped and excited tonight. We did the small things, the little things, and we got the end result."
The Dallastown girls weren't the only ones looking forward to a rematch with the Eagles. You can count their coach in that equation too.
"We've been wanting this rematch with Dover for a long time," Manlove said. "We didn't play intense, up-beat basketball the way that we can (in the first meeting) and I think Dover did a hell of a job of being intense and in-your-face. But I just think that the girls were more mentally tough and ready to compete (Tuesday)."
While the loss was emotionally tough for Lokhaiser's team to swallow, he knows that his team's season didn't end at Central on Tuesday. The Eagles (23-1) will play host to a first-round District 3-AAAA contest against either Solanco or Gov. Mifflin next Tuesday at 7 p.m.
"When you're undefeated at this point of the season, it's a tough loss anytime, but especially the second round of counties," he said. "We just talked about regrouping and getting ready for next week. We stressed to them that we're the No. 1 seed in AAAA and we want to go into that next game acting like we're the No. 1 seed."
Both Grim and Jenna Jackson each poured in 14 points to lead the Wildcats, while Johnson chipped in 13. Dover's Alayah Hall led her team with 14 points, while Maxine Herman chipped in nine points.
Tickets: Dallastown will sell advance tickets to the girls' title game on Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. in high school front lobby.
-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.